Fluorescence imaging is used widely in microscopy and macroscopic imaging applications for fields ranging from biomedicine to materials science. A critical component for any fluorescence imaging system is the excitation source. Traditionally, wide-field systems use filtered thermal or arc-generated white light sources, while point scanning confocal microscope systems require spatially coherent (point-like) laser sources. Unfortunately, the limited range of visible wavelengths available from conventional laser sources constrains the design and usefulness of fluorescent probes in confocal microscopy. A 'hands-off ' laser-like source, electronically tunable across the visible spectrum, would be invaluable for fluorescence imaging and provide new opportunities, e.g. automated excitation fingerprinting and in situ measurement of excitation cross-sections. Yet more information can be obtained using fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM), which requires that the light source be pulsed or rapidly modulated. We show how a white light continuum, generated by injecting femtosecond optical radiation into a micro-structured optical fibre, coupled with a simple prism-based tunable filter arrangement, can fulfil all these roles as a continuously electronically tunable (435-1150 nm) visible ultrafast light source in confocal, wide-field and FLIM systems.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics

Publication Date





3296 - 3303